In a devastating first half performance Dagenham & Redbridge swept aside their Third Division opponents at Victoria Road last night in front of the nation on Sky Sports, and then again as the lead game on a Match of the Day special on BBC TV. Daggers fans will be pinching themselves over just how comprehensive a victory it was, but the result is a tribute to Garry Hill and his team.
DiggerDagger had predicted that Mark Stein would be the ace in The Daggers' hand so it was very worrying that after seconds of the game he started limping and was then substituted after just 4 minutes with a hamstring injury that was the only bad news for the home team all night. If the Grecians defence breathed a sigh of relief at seeing the back of the Conference's top scorer though it was extremely premature as replacement Junior McDougald (pictured right) came on and immediately tore into them.
Junior's first act was to find space on the left to provide a pinpoint cross that Mark Janney (pictured left) arriving on the far post just had to get his head to in order to put The Daggers ahead. That goal seemed to give Mark a boost in confidence and he then proceeded to give the Exeter left back, Graeme Power a torrid time. Dagenham & Redbridge could have had two more in the following minutes as Ken Charlery headed wide from within the 6 yard box and then from the breakdown of a free kick Mark Smith picked the ball up and crossed only for Steve Heffer to find a way to put the ball over the bar from a yard out.
Worries that missing chances to
extend the lead would cause problems later surfaced briefly as Christian Roberts shot into the side netting, however all worries were removed when another free kick from the right by Paul Terry saw Junior McDougald (pictured right celebrating his goal) out-muscle Exeter's captain and loop a header over the helpless keeper Van Heusden for the second goal. Danny Shipp then went close with a shot from 20 yards and Ken Charlery could have added another when picked out by Janney, his shot from 8 yards being well saved this time.
As the half neared its end though it was Ken Charlery (pictured left) that put the tie safe as again Janney tormented Power and his perfect far post cross was nodded powerfully in. As the half ended Daggers' fans were unsure whether they would collectively wake up and find they had been dreaming, it was really that good.
The second half proved less eventful for the home side as Exeter tried to get back into the game. Highly rated Christian Roberts looked bright, causing a few problems to the home defence, including a great chipped shot from the edge of the area that beat Tony Roberts only to come back off the post, but realistically there was never a way back for them. Tony Roberts
made a couple of saves to keep the goal intact as the crowd inquired of watching Craig Burley, studio summariser for Sky Sports, if he was watching. He was, and he will not be relishing bringing his side to Victoria Road on the 5th of January.
A magical evening ended with a deserved lap of honour (pictured right) for the home team and a jubilant home following heading home to hear what Gary Lineker and Mark Lawrenson had to say about the performance. They were as impressed as everyone else. Brilliant!!